CAIRO (Ma’an) -- The Egyptian army said on Sunday that it had killed six gunmen and detained tens of suspects affiliated to unspecified armed groups in the northern Sinai Peninsula town of Rafah.
Egyptian security sources said that six “extremely dangerous” gunmen were killed, while 29 suspects were detained, and two tunnels -- presumably between Egypt and the besieged Gaza Strip -- were destroyed during Egyptian military raids in the area.
The sources added that a warehouse, where large quantities of explosives were uncovered, was also found and demolished.
The incidents came as the latest of a string of deadly encounters in the North Sinai district, amid an ongoing battle waged by the Egyptian government against an insurgency in the region, with Egyptian authorities holding the local affiliate of the Islamic State responsible for the majority of attacks.
Fighting between Egyptian forces and the Sinai Province -- formerly known as Ansar Beit al-Maqdis -- has escalated since Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi took power from Muhammad Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013, and has since left hundreds killed, including civilians, security forces, and alleged militants.
Since al-Sisi came to power, Egypt has strictly enforced the Israeli blockade of Gaza and flooded hundreds of the tunnels as part of an ongoing security campaign in the northern Sinai Peninsula against anti-regime militants.
Egypt accuses Hamas, the de facto ruling party in Gaza, of supporting the insurgents, allegations Hamas strongly denies.
The UN reported in February that only a few tunnels remained partially operational between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.
Al-Sisi has come under attack over his violent suppression of Muslim Brotherhood members following his rise to power, which al-Sisi has argued is necessary to deter future attacks in the Sinai and across Egypt.
Investigations conducted by HRW indicated that Egyptian security forces “may have arbitrarily detained and forcibly disappeared the men and then staged a counter-terrorism raid to cover up the killings.”
The group meanwhile highlighted that journalists and human rights groups are rarely able to investigate frequent and credible reports of abuse because the government denies them access to the region.